Saturday, 26 November 2016

Mission statement of the day

The world leader of professional syrup
This would be perfect if it belonged to one of the advertising agencies responsible for 2016's slew of heartwarming Christmas TV ads. In the real world, though, I spotted it on the back of an old bottle of sirop de cassis, that posh version of Ribena you can glug into white wine to make kir.

Sunday, 20 November 2016

Fashion, gender and interior lighting

I've been slightly obsessed with Lindybeige's YouTube channel lately. Here he is, talking about why cloaks are really quite good:
Sadly, like the man said, you can no longer wear this simple, but very useful, garment which has been a standard item in most peoples' wardrobes, in most societies, for most of human history, in public, because people will think you're some kind of nutter.

Or can you? I think that the answer is probably "no" if you're a guy, but I wonder whether this might be a practical* fashion trend for the ladies. After all, plenty of women already wear various types of wraps, shawls, pashminas and ponchos without having their sanity questioned and a cloak is only a wrap's bigger, heavier, cousin.

It would even out the gender imbalance for women to be able to wear something practical that men can't, for a change. At the moment, when it comes to day to day comfort and practicality, we guys have a far easier time than women. To pick just one example, think about shoes.

Smart or casual, it's easy to find a presentable pair of men's shoes that you can comfortably walk as far as you need to in. For style-conscious women, the choice mostly seems to be between wearing something smart or something you can walk about in pain-free (choose only one of the above). Even when women choose something that any reasonable person would consider smart, like a formal flat, or court, shoe, there are still people who think it's OK to pressure them into wearing something painful and impractical instead, because reasons.

Moving on from things that people used in the past because they were practical, here's another Lindybeige vid, about things that people didn't use in the past, because they were totally impractical - blazing torches (as a form of interior lighting):
So, forget Hollywood, the castles and banqueting halls of Ye Olden Tymes weren't lit by blazing torches in brackets. Another medieval trope bites the dust.

I could mention this to my son, whose Minecraft creations are mainly lit with the ubiquitous torches which compete with a fictional substance, glowstone, as the primary source of interior and exterior lighting in Minecraft World. But I won't. Minecraft, you see, just like the Lord of the Rings and Game of Thrones, but unlike history, is allowed to take such liberties, because it isn't real.

That should be an obvious point, but in this idiotic year, when "post-truth" has entered both the dictionary and the mainstream, actually pointing out the difference between things that literally exist in the real world and things that are totally made-up fantasies feels like a revolutionary, probably subversive, act.

*OK, I realise that a heavy woollen cloak, though it might keep you warm and dry, is also absorbent and will get heavy and smell like a wet dog after being rained on (as well as steaming up any room, public transport compartment, or vehicle you might enter after being out in a heavy downpour). But this is 2016 and clothing manufacturers have access to a wider range of fabrics and water-repellant coatings than ever before in human history, so this isn't necessarily a deal-breaker.

Friday, 18 November 2016


Fraser Nelson thinks that our government has a Brexit strategy. This isn't necessarily a good thing.

If, he's wrong, we're screwed. If he's right, we're probably screwed, too, because he thinks that the cunning plan at the heart of the most crucial economic decision for generations is a version of the Cold War doctrine of Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD). I'm really not kidding:
There is another way to handle these talks. Richard Nixon called it the Madman theory, where you let your opponent think you’re crazy enough to act destructively....

...Mrs May’s best Brexit strategy may lie in her presenting herself as someone who is unafraid of a fight, doesn’t really mind who she upsets – and is, above all, capable of doing anything. 
The full think piece is here (Telegraph subscription required).

What's wrong with this picture? Two things:

First, if your entire negotiating strategy depends on bluff, intimidation and picking fights, it's really important that your opponents think that you are stronger than they are, or they'll call your bluff and give you a good kicking.

In this particular fight, there are 27 of them, versus one of us.

Over half of our exports go to the 27 countries we've decided to pick a fight with. They only export 6.6% of their stuff to us. They know this. But the British government's plan* is, apparently, to hope that the rest of Europe just hasn't noticed that we're bringing a custard pie to a knife fight.

Second, two can play at that game. We can try to convince them that we're a bunch of dangerous lunatics by making Boris Johnson our chief diplomat, but look who we're up against. The man who put the "mad" into Mutually Assured Destruction, Doctor Strangelove Schäuble. The man who was prepared to destroy Greece, just to remind it who's boss. If Mrs May stands up in an EU meeting and starts banging the desk with one of her kitten heels, like a huffy Khrushchev, would you really bet folding money that Doctor S will blink first? I wouldn't.

The upside of all this is that I really don't have time to worry about Trump - I'm way too busy being terrified of how insane British politicians seem to be, assuming that their plans are anything like as crazy as their fans in the media seem to imagine.

*If this is the plan, and not just a piece of Torygraph columnist fanfic, where Theresa May is the stern dominatrix

Thursday, 17 November 2016

Golden words he will pour in your ear...

...but his lies can't disguise what you fear...
Respectable movie buffs say that Citizen Kane predicted Trump. But if old action movies are your guilty pleasure, we've got you covered, too. Look no further than the villain of the third (and best, IMO) movie in the James Bond franchise, the eponymous Auric Goldfinger:

Watching the Trump generation of post-truth authoritarian nationalists gleefully kerb-stomp what's left of liberal democracy won't be pretty, but the sound track will be awesome:

Monday, 14 November 2016

About the golden door...

The prospectus sounds great:
Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she
With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!
But, huddled masses, please note:

  1. That golden door opens onto a crooked billionaire 's penthouse and is strictly off limit to bums like you.
  2. Only kidding about the storied pomp - we're totally cool with that stuff.
  3. Just in case you start getting any ideas, the golden door is guarded by these two characters and they ain't letting nobody in:
Now go back where you came from, losers, we got a wall to build.

Image credit for the image worth crediting.

Sunday, 13 November 2016

And some, I assume, are good people

Well, the Trumpocalypse didn't seem that likely back in September 2015, at least to me:
But if we want a meaningful measure of what a great wizard Oink Balloon is, we should define some goals beforehand. Here are three simple metrics to assess the success of Oink Balloon's alleged wizardry. In order of increasing improbability, 1. Oink Balloon becomes the Republican presidential candidate, 2. Oink Balloon is elected President, 3. Oink Balloon persuades the Mexican government to erect, at its own expense, a wall, chicken wire fence, or whatever, to stop its own citizens from trying to enter the Land of the Free and the Home of the Slightly Deranged (as it will be known, in the unlikely event that condition 2. is ever met). If Oink Balloon achieves any one of these, I'll concede that there's something here that requires explanation.
At least we're not short of explanations - there are almost too many. I'm mostly happy to go with the unoriginal theory that Trump happens when people realise they've been Fukuyama'd.

That's to say that Trumpism was an equal and opposite reaction to the self-congratulatory elite consensus that America had arrived at the End of History and discovered the best of all possible worlds, a proposition that probably didn't impress folk who hadn't seen a real wage rise in a generation and a half and were working harder, with less job security for their pittances, (assuming they were lucky enough to have a job, or the two or three jobs it takes many to make ends meet). In short, the left behind gave politics as usual a massive middle finger.

But that can't be the whole story. After all, it was Scott Adams who spent this election cycle telling us all that the tangerine huckster was a great and powerful wizard and Scott's had a very successful career, definitely not finding himself left behind (except by members of the reality-based community - he may have called the election, but Scott's Trump eulogies have had all the self-justifying craziness of The Donald's own 3am tweets). Scott, I think, falls partly into the entitled, mens' rights activist subset of Trump fandom, although there's a deeper level of psychological identification going on here, between a seriously needy guy, desperate to force the world to acknowledge his unique genius, and the alpha narcissist himself:
Finally the endless, orgiastically affirming victories (“The Master Persuader filter continues to predict with spooky accuracy”). Every time Trump wins, Adams wins, too—Trump is the giant crushing his rivals one by one; Adams is the genius who saw that he would do it.
Political correctness also played a part. Not the phony political correctness complained about by the various reactionary bigots who feel that they can't be truly free unless they're bullying and demeaning women/racial minorities/LGBT people/the disabled.

What I'm talking about is the actually existing form of political correctness in mainstream politics and the media, which defines what are - and aren't - "legitimate concerns." It is, apparently, "legitimate" to be concerned that foreigners are coming for your job, your job security, your services, your access to housing, or your culture. Your concerns, however, stop being legitimate as soon as you mention who's actually been hogging most of the pie in our increasingly unequal societies, while the rest of us have been scrabbling for crumbs - the super rich, the offshoring corporations and high net worth individuals who get to dodge paying tax, the bailed-out bankers, landlords, other rent-creamers and the rest. Start being concerned about what they've been up to and your concerns are delegitimised as whinging, or "the politics of envy."

Trump may have been spouting his toxic bigotry loud and proud, but it was the cynical mainstream press and politicos who handed him a loud hailer by framing such scapegoating as "legitimate concerns," just as they've done here in Brexit Britain.

The Trump/Brexit parallels are obvious and worrying but, before the polls, some people comforted themselves with the idea that America might not fall for the same bullshit, because it was a different place. Myself included - I re-posted the YouTube footage of Samantha Bee's horrified post-Brexit show, in which Samantha warned that it could happen in America but probably wouldn't, for two reasons that seemed plausible to me at the time:

  1. Because America is more racially diverse than Britain, the blacks and Hispanics would come out strongly against Trump's open racism (which, in the end, they did, but not by enough to defeat the white Trumpists).
  2. Because America, unlike Britain, has "a butt-ton of evangelical Christians" who couldn't possibly support anybody so horrifically incompatible with such core Christian values as humility and loving your neighbour as yourself.

OK, this second one seemed a bit counter-intuitive to me at first, given political Christians' past record of prioritising the preservation of America's traditional social norms over any of the sandal-wearing Nazarene's more hippyish notions about peace and love. But Samantha illustrated her point with a clip of a Southern Baptist preacher deftly brushing off a "ban the Muslims" bigot with the perfectly reasonable point that Christians should extend to others the same religious tolerance that they expect to enjoy themselves.

So I put aside my preconceptions and assumed that there really were a butt-ton of evangelicals who were way too nice to vote Trump, maybe socialised by the "religious, not spiritual" aspects of the church as family. I've got in-laws who've gone to an evangelical church for years and, though I don't share their beliefs, I know from first-hand experience that they're kind, generous, socially responsible people who have never shown the slightest hint of bigotry and put most of us to shame by any reasonable measure of good citizenship.

Sadly, the plural of anecdote is not data and when it came to the crunch, it seems as if over 80% of self-identified white evangelicals listened to every horrific word that proceeded out of the mouth of Trump and cried "Amen!" And some (around 16%), I assume, are good people.

Having failed to prophesy the coming of the Tangerine Antichrist, maybe I should quit while I'm behind here but, for what it's worth, here's my prediction about the remaining metric of Trump success. The useless wall may, or may not, get built now, but I'm still prepared to stick my neck out and say that Mexico won't be paying for it, at least in any sense of the word "paying" that a reasonable person would understand. That doesn't preclude the possibility that Trump will impose some wholly unrelated cost on Mexico - a Tequila tariff, or something - then turn round and boast "Look, I made them pay, just like I said I would!"

Wednesday, 9 November 2016

Rinse, repeat

Here’s my “take home” point: if you repeat this fantasy, these predictions often enough, if you repeat it in front of powerful investors, university administrators, politicians, journalists, then the fantasy becomes factualized. (Not factual. Not true. But “truthy,” to borrow from Stephen Colbert’s notion of “truthiness.”) So you repeat the fantasy in order to direct and to control the future. Because this is key: the fantasy then becomes the basis for decision-making...

... “The best way to predict the future is to invent it,” computer scientist Alan Kay once famously said. I’d wager that the easiest way is just to make stuff up and issue a press release. I mean, really. You don’t even need the pretense of a methodology. Nobody is going to remember what you predicted.
Audrey Watters

Monday, 7 November 2016

Sublime, improbable Martian engineering

 *Spoiler alert- if you've not already read H G Wells's The War of the Worlds, do so immediately, or read on at your own peril...*

I've just been re-reading the first alien invasion novel, H G Wells's The War of the Worlds, and I can see again why it created a genre all of its own and why it immediately grabbed me as a child. Mainly because it's such a cracking yarn - the alien visitation starts off as an intriguing curiosity, but escalates to being, ominous, threatening, awe-inspiring and terrifying at an unstoppable pace that mirrors the relentless advance of Well's iconic Martian tripods, seen here in  one of the novel's big reveals:
And this Thing I saw! How can I describe it? A monstrous tripod, higher than many houses, striding over the young pine trees, and smashing them aside in its career; a walking engine of glittering metal, striding now across the heather; articulate ropes of steel dangling from it, and the clattering tumult of its passage mingling with the riot of the thunder. A flash, and it came out vividly, heeling over one way with two feet in the air, to vanish and reappear almost instantly as it seemed, with the next flash, a hundred yards nearer. Can you imagine a milking stool tilted and bowled violently along the ground? That was the impression those instant flashes gave. But instead of a milking stool imagine it a great body of machinery on a tripod stand... Seen nearer, the Thing was incredibly strange, for it was no mere insensate machine driving on its way. Machine it was, with a ringing metallic pace, and long, flexible, glittering tentacles (one of which gripped a young pine tree) swinging and rattling about its strange body. It picked its road as it went striding along, and the brazen hood that surmounted it moved to and fro with the inevitable suggestion of a head looking about.
That's a fantastic piece of writing and there are lots more like it. The book also has its expository digressions, where the action stops and Wells explains things rather than just showing you awesome stuff, but these aren't too long (at least by the standards of the time when Wells was writing) and by this stage he's already created enough momentum to keep you gripped and reading on. Compare and contrast with that other piece of proto-sci-fi, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, which also starts with strange, ominous events, building up to an exciting reveal and some great set pieces, but is so weighted down with the ballast of endless pages of over-long explanation that Verne almost sinks the cracking yarn he created.*

If the The War of the Worlds looks forward to every alien invasion yarn that followed, it also looks back to an aesthetic trope that's probably been around for ever, but was largely formalised in the Eighteenth Century and peaked with early Nineteenth Century Romanticism - the sublime. That's the idea that humans don't just appreciate things which are beautiful in an ordered, harmonious way, but also dig stuff that's wild, inhuman in scale and frankly terrifying - as the Tate Britain put it, in the blurb to an exhibition dedicated to "Art and the Sublime":
The best-known theory published in Britain is Edmund Burke’s A Philosophical Enquiry into the Origin of Our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful (1757). Burke’s definition of the sublime focuses on such terms as darkness, obscurity, privation, vastness, magnificence, loudness and suddenness, and that our reaction is defined by a kind of pleasurable terror.

During the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the sublime was associated in particular with the immensity or turbulence of Nature and human responses to it. Consequently, in Western art, ‘sublime’ landscapes and seascapes, especially those from the Romantic period, often represent towering mountain ranges, deep chasms, violent storms and seas, volcanic eruptions or avalanches which, if actually experienced, would be life threatening.
Compare Wells's description of the towering Martian tripod with William Wordsworth describing his youthful memory of stealing a boat and rowing out onto Ullswater at night, in The Prelude. As young Wordsworth looks back guiltily at a peak overlooking the lake, the huge, shadowy, inhuman form seems, by an unsettling trick of perspective, to be pursuing his boat:
And, as I rose upon the stroke, my boat
Went heaving through the water like a swan;
When, from behind that craggy steep till then
The horizon's bound, a huge peak, black and huge,
As if with voluntary power instinct,
Upreared its head. I struck and struck again,
And growing still in stature the grim shape
Towered up between me and the stars, and still,
For so it seemed, with purpose of its own
And measured motion like a living thing,
Strode after me...
Wordsworth's looming peak only looked threatening, but extreme fans of the sublime had access to far more hardcore material than that. Wells's Martians may have wreaked terrible destruction on the South East of England, but even they would have had a hard time competing with acts of God. The Almighty's awesome destructive capacity was given the sublime treatment by popular Nineteenth Century painter John Martin, in a series of massive, full-frontal disaster porn canvasses like The Great Day of His Wrath:
It's the end of the World as we know it (and I feel fine).
Sublimely terrifying and imaginative though Well's Martian tripods are, it's probably best not to think too hard about how they work. According to Wells's description, the unearthly three-legged machines move like "a milking stool tilted and bowled violently along the ground" and elsewhere he writes of their swiftness and "rolling" motion, which is vivid enough.

But if the whole machine is whirling around to pivot from one leg to the next, surely the Martian pilot within is also being whirled around, unable to stay facing the machine's direction of travel (or any other fixed direction) and getting horribly dizzy, (assuming that the Martian vestibular system can suffer from dizziness).

Maybe the tripod legs whirl around, but the cowl housing the Martian pilot doesn't. But that would imply that controlling part of the machine is mounted on some sort of axle or pivot, which, according to Wells, isn't the way the Martians, with their biomimetic technology, do things:
And of their appliances, perhaps nothing is more wonderful to a man than the curious fact that what is the dominant feature of almost all human devices in mechanism is absent--the wheel is absent; among all the things they brought to earth there is no trace or suggestion of their use of wheels. One would have at least expected it in locomotion...

 ...And not only did the Martians either not know of (which is incredible), or abstain from, the wheel, but in their apparatus singularly little use is made of the fixed pivot or relatively fixed pivot, with circular motions thereabout confined to one plane. Almost all the joints of the machinery present a complicated system of sliding parts moving over small but beautifully curved friction bearings. And while upon this matter of detail, it is remarkable that the long leverages of their machines are in most cases actuated by a sort of sham musculature of the disks in an elastic sheath; these disks become polarised and drawn closely and powerfully together when traversed by a current of electricity. In this way the curious parallelism to animal motions, which was so striking and disturbing to the human beholder, was attained.
Of course, this might just be one of the singularly rare occasions when the Martians did make use of the fixed pivot, but it definitely goes against the Martians' overriding design ethos. Or maybe the cowl isn't on a pivot, just hyper-mobile, like an owl's head:
But this would present difficulties of its own - if the tripod rolled around in only one direction, the head would eventually have to snap back round, even if it could stay pointing in one direction for a while. If the tripod alternated its direction of roll, a hyper-mobile head would work, but the change from whirling in one direction to another would would be inefficient, robbing the machine of momentum, just as it was getting onto a roll.

Movie versions of the novel have struggled (or not tried) to reproduce the motion of the Martian tripods, as described by Wells. In the 1953 film adaptation, the special effects people decided that they just wouldn't be able to create a convincing walking tripod and opted to redesign the Martian fighting machines as floating manta ray-shaped craft, topped with a heat ray on a flexible mounting that looked like a striking cobra. In a nod to the original novel, the film's hero scientist explains that the seemingly unsupported Martian craft are actually held up in mid air and moved by means of three invisible "electromagnetic legs."

With the advent of CGI, a later generation of special effects wizards were finally able to produce a plausible-looking version of the Wellsian tripods for Steven Spielberg's 2005 film adaptation - sort of. In some ways the CGI works well and the tripod machines have some of the Wellsian details right. For example, the limbs are flexible, just as Wells described, looking more like a supple living thing than a stiff, jointed mechanism

But the motion is distinctly un-Wellsian - Spielberg's tripods don't whirl forwards with an unstoppable rolling gait, but pick their three-legged way through the ruins like a dog with an injured paw, or a human walking with one good leg, a plaster cast and a crutch. I don't think this really catches the essence of Wells's vision, where the tripods signified two things. First, alienness - no creature on our planet has evolved to walk on three legs. Second, implacable swiftness - it's clear from the original novel that the Martian machines move fast and efficiently on their three legs, bearing down like express trains on the puny humans in their path, pursuing and outflanking them with ease.

To date, nobody (AFAIK) has been able to represent, or reproduce the sort of tripod locomotion Wells described so vividly. Whether this is a failure of imagination, technical skill, or just a reflection of the fact that it's impossible to translate Wells's vision into actual engineering, I don't know (although the fact that terrestrial biology has taken millions of years not to come up with a working three-legged creature might point to three legs just being an inefficient number for a walker).

An impossible form of locomotion, or just one nobody's figured out yet? You decide.

*To be fair, I've only read it in translation and it probably sounds better in French, but the endless pauses in the action when Verne just stops everything to list species of fish, or whatever, must be just as boring in any language.

Sunday, 6 November 2016

What we got by lying, we'll defend with violence

But believe you me, if the people in this country think that they're going to be cheated or they're going to be betrayed then we will see political anger – the likes of which none of us in our lifetimes have ever witnessed in this country...

...I'm going to say to everybody watching this who was on the Brexit side - let's try and get even, let's have peaceful protests and let's make sure in any form of election we don't support people who want to overturn this process.
Nigel Farage, reminding us all that, never mind Trump, for us in Britain the nightmare of political intimidation has already started.

Presumably, the leader of the Brexit Brownshirts will whine that he used the word "peaceful" when denying responsibility for the actions of the next angry thug who takes his inflammatory rhetoric about "betrayal" and getting even seriously. To hell with him.

Saturday, 5 November 2016

Betteridge's all-you-can-eat buffet

For the benefit of James Landale and other hacks / editors who never got the memo about not writing headlines in the form of a question, here are a few more gratuitous breaches of Betteridge's law, as committed by the New Zealand Herald* and patiently curated by Giovanni Tiso.

Just stop doing it.

* Not that I have any particular beef with NZ journalism in general, given that the kiwi press achieved a respectable 5th place in the 2016 World Press Freedom Index, while British hacks could only manage a lacklustre 38th place.

Friday, 4 November 2016

Prime Minister threatens to "strangle Foreign Secretary like a dog"...

... is what I call a headline. But handed this juiciest of sound bites on a silver platter, the BBC's James Landale boringly opted to title his think piece, inspired by the Spectator Parliamentarian of the Year Awards,  "Can Theresa May resist temptation to mock Boris?" (the answer, my friend, is blowing in the wind "no" - see Betteridge's law of headlines).

Purists might object to my abuse of scare quotes around an indirect quotation, but I reckon my paraphrase is about as accurate a reflection of the substance of Mrs May's hearty banter as the stuff you'd see in most headlines:
But it was what Mrs May said about Boris Johnson that struck me most. Picking up on his reference to Lady Heseltine's aggressive Alsatian, the prime minister looked directly at her foreign secretary - I was directly in the eye line - and said: "Boris, the dog was put down... (pause)... when its master decided it wasn't needed any more."
Touching though it is to see a shared love of canine asphyxiation bringing the Europhile Lord Heseltine and Mad Mrs Brexit together in perfect harmony, I thought there was something far more revealing in Landale's piece.
"Theresa May should not back Boris Johnson. He'll cheat on her like a dog & she should choke him like a dog"

No, not even the bit where The Boris (another politician who knows words and has the best words) predicted that Brexit would be a "titanic success" (presumably with a Celine Dion ballad of its very own). No, this:
Now every government has a court jester and Boris Johnson will never be able to escape that title. But his role in this government is crucial. He is there to convince the international community that Britain is not turning its back on the world post Brexit, that Britain has a positive role to play in global affairs.

And to do that he needs to be taken seriously. Many foreign politicians and diplomats that I speak to tell me they are pleasantly surprised when they meet the foreign secretary for the first time. 

They talk of the man behind the caricature - the cultured, over-educated intellectual who often speaks a bit of their language and who can be thoughtful when he is not gripped by banter.

The problem is that many others - who have not met the foreign secretary in person - often still see him as a kind of upmarket Nigel Farage, a Eurosceptic clown with clout. 
If you thought that The Boris was just a racist assclown, talking incontinent drivel, you'd be wrong. It's actually much worse than that. The Boris is apparently a grown-up man, capable of tying his own shoelaces, passing the port in the correct direction and swapping amusing anecdotes and quotes from Virgil with foreign ambassadors over trays of canapés, Ferrero Rocher, or whatever the hell it is they graze on at fancy diplomatic soirées. The Boris is only pretending to be a racist assclown, talking incontinent drivel, because he thinks this will win him the support of the common people, who he clearly views as easily-distracted bigots with short attention spans.

I suppose we should be grateful for gossipy, privately-educated establishment journalists like James Landale for twitching back the curtain and giving the rest of us a tantalising little glimpse of the sheer contempt in which our cynical, manipulative "betters" hold plebs like us.

Wednesday, 2 November 2016

The expendables

If you believe what Arron Banks says, the insurance tycoon and Tory-turned-Ukip donor has almost run out of patience with the 'kippers. He says he's unhappy with the poor quality of their current leadership contenders, who apparently don't live up to the high standards of freaking lunacy demonstrated by his preferred candidate, Raheem Kassam, alumnus of Brietbart's School of Bullshit and Wingnuttery.

If you still believe the word of a Brexiteer, you may also be interested in corresponding with an entirely trustworthy Nigerian gentleman, currently in possession of a large fortune, which he's only too happy to entrust to your safe keeping, just as soon as you've given him your bank account details.

Personally, I don't believe a word of it. I think it's got less to do with the calibre of the leadership candidates than with the fact that Ukip has outlived its usefulness. The referendum's over. The next election will probably be in 2020.* If (God help us) Brexit happens, it's the Conservatives who will deliver it, not a squabbling bunch of punch-drunk fruitcakes, loonies and closet racists with one MP to their name.

Ukip were useful so long as there were voters to be hoodwinked and and an "anti-establishment" bandwagon to be ridden. But now it's not about voters any more. It's about legal red tape and the urgent need to bypass Parliamentary scrutiny and how much public money will be needed to bribe the bankers and the motor manufacturers and any other group of firms we can't afford to lose, to stay where they would have stayed anyway, if we'd taken the simple precaution of not expressing our frustrations through an irreversible act of eye-wateringly painful self-harm.

If Brexit was the pet project you bought, then I'm pretty sure you'd want to give your support to the people in government who can make it happen, which is why I think Banks is probably just going to be the first of the ex-Tory backers who created Ukip to give up on them, now that the Conservatives have become suffiently Ukip-like to do Brexit.

I suspected that something like this was about to happen, but I still might be proved wrong - in fact, I hope I am wrong. As somebody who never voted for Brexit, I'd far rather see Banks, Sykes, Wheeler and the other moneybags behind Brexit waste their money by throwing it at a flaky, divided fringe party, rather than propping up the finances of a government with the power to make the looming catastrophe actually happen.

*I don't believe that Theresa May is in any hurry to go to the country, despite the opposition's current problems - even Mrs "Brexit means Brexit" knows that some seriously unpopular unintended consequence of Brexit might pop up at any moment, which is why she's so keen to trigger Article 50 before too many people turn against the thing she's declared it her sacred duty to deliver.